Worthy of Being Seen by Mia Styant-Browne
I was almost fifteen when I went to my first Weight Watcher’s meeting. Before that I’d had personal trainers, at least three, been on Atkins, South Beach and every other diet.
Weight Watchers was, perhaps, the most serious. Every Saturday morning, I followed my mother dutifully to the meeting, weighed in and sat down. I wore the same outfit every time; my smallest shorts, my lightest tee, flip-flops that slid on and off with ease.
My preparation ritual: eat whatever I wanted immediately following the meeting until Thursday, eat nothing Thursday night through Saturday morning. Sometimes I’d throw in a laxative for good measure. 24 hours without food usually did the trick.
My weight was always down. Insignificantly, but down nevertheless. I don’t think there was a single week that I didn’t lose something; weight, hope, something.
I was obsessed with the number. More than I’d ever been. I became the number on the scale. My entire self-worth reduced to three digits. I began to see myself in pounds and ounces, forgot that I was also thoughts and feelings.
We all suffer some level of body dysmorphia, but too often it results in us seeing ourselves as worse than we are, never better.
I’ve been at least chubby from about age four. My weight has always fallen somewhere on the spectrum between chunky and fat. Over the past decade, I’ve lost more weight in total than I currently weigh. I’ve gained that all back. I’ve never felt what it means to inhabit a skinny body.
I’ve had skinny friends, seen thin people, wondered why I lacked that same self-control. I’d come to equate being fat with lacking willpower.
When people looked at me did they think I was dirtier than them? Lazier? Lacking in some essential attribute? Did I revolt them?
Statistics bear out that more pounds on the scale equates to fewer dollars at the office. So maybe employers think this way too.
I’ve spent more money on “goal” outfits than on my wardrobe that fits. I’ve taken HCG, a hormone pregnant women produce that speeds up your metabolism. I’ve starved myself for long periods. I’ve thrown up food. Given myself ultimatums.
I remember my dad saying to me, “you’ll probably still be successful, but it’ll be harder as long as you’re fat”. It must have been around the time I was at Weight Watcher’s or maybe it was during South Beach.
I remember my mom offering to pay per pound lost, monitoring my every mouthful, tracking all the calories, threatening to lock the fridge.
She would oscillate between tactics. One day the locks, the next telling me that I’d be too perfect if I lost weight.
I was taught that fat was bad by other people when it was used as a slur against me.
After this, I saw the tag on another girl’s school uniform in the change room. It was so much smaller than mine. I had the XL. She the XS.
Another time, the bookstore. Despite my mom trying to hide it, I saw the book she purchased. Raising Fat Kids. I still remember the stick figure chain that ran across the cover.
I worried that my weight was a burden. Was my weight and her happiness linked? The heavier I was the sadder she became?
My mom needed a special manual to raise me. I never the read the book. I never even saw it again. I think sometimes about what it said.
In my mind, home, family and food were one and the same. I would go on Harley rides with my dad to get meat pies, sometimes ice cream to follow. They are my best and most vivid childhood memories.
If not pies, then pizza. If not pizza, then fried chicken. The cuisine didn’t matter. There was a dinner plate-sized hole that I tried valiantly to fill with food. I realized that food cannot feel that hole. That it’s a Band-Aid for bullet hole.
I wish to say now that I love my body. The way it lets me walk. How it allows me to move. Carries me through the day. I’d like to, but I can’t. I still care about being fat. I still would like not to be.
I’m not alone in this struggle. Half the U.S. population, both men and women, struggle with me. Being fat is experienced differently depending on your sex though. The statistics on bulimia and anorexia alone bear this out.
A man is more than his body. A woman is her body. It’s her value in the world. A man is appreciated for what he produces. A woman’s production is valuable only so long as she looks good producing it.
Women must strive to attain a standard we all accept is impossible.
Sizable breasts (but not too big). A tiny waist (but still curvy). A large butt (high and toned of course). Long legs (not like a giraffe though). Toned arms (but not too muscular). Wear makeup (but don’t look like you are). Eat junk food (but maintain size 0-2).
The only way to counteract this is to begin loving not only our own bodies, but all bodies. Seeing them for their beauty, not their imperfections. Stopping comparing. Perhaps the true root of all evil.
Personally, I’m sick of the conversation. I may not be ready to accept that I’ll be big forever, but I’m also finished letting my mental health be dictated by a scale. Maybe that number will fall, maybe it will grow. Either way I am worthy of being seen.
Mia is an Aussie writer currently living in Seattle. She loves having deep chats over drinks, watching Sofia Coppola movies, reading Joan Didion and bingeing Real Housewives. When not watching reality TV, she writes and listens to podcasts. She loves surrounding herself with creative people and consuming the art they make whether it's music, writing, podcast or film. She dreams of one day having a job that lets her live in both Australia and America as she has the problem of always wishing she was in the other place. Her work has been published in Australia's national newspaper, The Australian.